Under normal circumstances, most people would probably agree that teaching is a stressful and challenging job. Effective teaching requires much more than knowing the alphabet and memorization of multiplication facts. Teachers are required to wear many hats — counselor, doctor, artist, entertainer, public relations rep — and the list goes on.
And these are not normal circumstances.
With the introduction of COVID-19 came the need for educators to wear even more hats. Teachers are now faced with issues involving technology, sanitation, health and student disengagement. As a result, teacher morale is at an all-time low.
The leadership team at Sherman Avenue Elementary recognized the need to improve teacher enthusiasm and began working months ago to implement ways to support and encourage their staff. Every school recognizes and celebrates one teacher a year for outstanding service to education, but Sherman Avenue’s team saw the need for more frequent recognition. One of the programs they put in place is called First Friday, held on the first Friday of every month.
“A large part of First Friday is celebrating teachers and assistants who are going above and beyond,” said Cossandra Stewart, lead teacher at Sherman Avenue. “We want to recognize and celebrate those who are really working to uphold our motto: We don’t do average. We do awesome.”
“With social distancing restrictions in place, we couldn’t hold a large group assembly. Instead we had a virtual program. Teachers were invited to join the Google Meet and every class tuned in,” Stewart added. “We wanted our entire school population to be able to participate so our virtual families were also invited to watch.”
Second grade teacher Elizabeth Ogle was the first teacher recognized.
“It was a great way to start the year — especially a year like 2020,” she said. “Things are definitely different and more challenging, but my kids are adapting so well. That makes things a lot less stressful. I was worried about getting them to keep their masks on, washing their hands and socially distancing themselves. And it’s different having virtual students, and it takes a little more effort to ensure they’re being successful online, but all of my kids are the real winners.”
Ogle was gifted with a coupon for a free hour away from campus and a personalized tote filled with items such as candles, sanitizers and framed pictures.
Kimberly Hunter was the first assistant honored this year. She has been at Sherman Avenue for one year and is an assistant teacher in a pre-K class.
“I was so surprised when I was recognized! We are all working during such a difficult time, and I think everybody is doing a wonderful job,” Hunter said. “Helping others, especially students, has always just been what I love to do.”
Hunter was also gifted with a filled personalized tote bag and a coupon for an hour off campus.
Stewart said First Friday will also be a time to recognize individual student and whole class achievements.
“Everyone at Sherman Avenue is on board and committed to making this a fabulous and successful year no matter what obstacles are presented,” she said, including principal Tawanda Nichols and assistant principal Angela Clark.
“Great things are happening here, and we can’t wait to let everyone know.”